E. According to Natural Church Development, small churches have a much higher potential for disciple making than large churches. Large churches tend to grow by transfer rather than conversion. Receptor growth can be explained by the developmental need for spiritual adolescents to differentiate from their “small church family of origin.” Large, program base design churches often grow by meeting this need; this is a solution feeding the trend toward congregationalism and decimating participation in the small churches of the conference.
F. In years past differentiation needs for small church members were met by linking individuals through District programming for ministry or training. Youth in churches too small to have a youth group participated in the District youth group. District activities supplemented small church programming gaps, built connection across multiple congregations, revitalized smaller churches and raised up quality leaders for the annual conference. Connectionalism is essential for small churches to fulfill the potential for disciple making indicated by Natural Church Development. The congregational paradigm begins to flourish when the connection is irrelevant to the survival, spiritual health, and growth of individual church members. Connectionalism increases when laity build covenant relationships with other United Methodists beyond their own parish.
 The quote is a selection from David O. Kueker’s Fuller Seminary Doctor of Ministry project submitted in September, 2007, entitled Diagnosis, Dialogue, and Decision: A Threefold Process of Revitalization For the Illinois Great Rivers Conference.
It is shared here in recognition of its 12th Anniversary along with comments to update and provide perspective on the material. The original project was a Training Manual/Study Guide of three Seminars supported by three chapters of research and an Introduction. The material is available for download at www.disciplewalk.com/Resources.html. In 2009 it was provided for purchase as a softcover book entitled Designing Discipleship Systems: Christian Disciple Making For Any Size Church, Any Theology through CreateSpace.com.
   
All Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright © 1946, 1952, and 1971 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. Please review the page How and Why We Use Quotes.